Template for Building a Small Powerful Network

networkThis post is somewhat inspired by a thought Jeff Pulver tossed out as an aside at his Social Media Jungle prototype in Long Island a few weeks ago. Hat tip to you, Jeff.

Jeff Pulver said this: “We’re making our own dial tone.” In such a typical Jeff Pulver way, he tossed out a little idea that had been bouncing around his head, but that he hasn’t rolled into any particular context yet, so I’m going to run with it. I’ve got an idea that came to me tonight about Twitter (amongst other social networks), and I’m going to share it with you: take that dial tone idea and build your own network. We’re sitting on something because we’re still in the “gee whiz” mode. Let me explain.

Where We Falter – Solo Efforts Versus Scale

I asked Twitter tonight about what people were working on for goals. Several people had remarkably similar goals, including, sadly, the fact that several of them were looking for work. 2008 is the easy year compared to what 2009 is going to be. I saw the same thing passing through everyone’s stream, and I saw connectivity that would be missed. And that’s when it stuck me. I tweeted this:

Do you realize there are thousands of great minds all plugged into the same conversation who could help each other with your goals? Activate

The trick is this- don’t make me or anyone the hub. Lead. Find your groups. Reach out. Set group goals. Execute. Move to a new group. Fluid.

You see, you’re all out there. You’ve got goals, you’ve got needs, you’ve got sources of information, and you have the tools to connect it all. You’ve got every piece of a network except for the directors.

So, what if you had the templates to building a small but powerful network? Here’s my starting ideas on this. I’ll talk in somewhat technical terms, but I promise this has everything to do with the human elements. I hope it sparks something in you. More so, I hope you run with it.

Build a Small Powerful Network

  1. First, think about your goals in 2009. Build the network with two purposes on mind: how you can achieve your goals, and how you can help others achieve theirs.
  2. You need authentication in a network. Start with a blog as a home base. Make it such that your about page tells people lots about you.
  3. It doesn’t hurt to have a picture of YOU on the blog, as this will deal with building a trusted network.
  4. Start a Google Doc spreadsheet with the following fields: name, twitter ID, cell, capabilities, notes. Think of this as your routing table, your database of records of where resources reside.
  5. Ask some probing questions on Twitter. If no one responds, ask again. See if there’s interest out there. What you’re doing at this point is sending out a signal that you’re looking for resources. (Like a computer, only you’re human.)
  6. Use Twitter Search to find some like-minded people. Work at this. Try all different kinds of queries until you find the right response.
  7. Send @ messages to these types of people. Ask them if they want to talk about collaborating.
  8. Invite them to your document, if you want. Let them share the resources. Get them into the mix.
  9. From here, collaborate. Figure out how you can helpful. Understand each other’s needs, and share the resources. Try to build your goals and businesses together.

It’s not exactly simple. But to me, it’s all there. You build the mechanisms (very simple ones), and you go after the goals together. You can feed it. You can encourage the edge points of the network (the other people) to be their own hub. You can build out more capabilities.

Scribbles from The Sidebar

What if you thought of these small networks in terms of games? Games have goals. They have a point. What if you set goals and points to these networks? What if you went at this network-building and empowerment as something very active, instead of using tools like Twitter as another place to chat?

In 2009, you need your networks. It is not a solo act. I need mine, too. And I plan to do exactly what I’ve laid out here.

Does it make sense? Can you see this as a template for how you might start getting your goals met for 2009? Are you planning to ally and make new relationships? What do you think?

Photo credit, Jared

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  • http://fitnessone.de Oliver

    This is quite an interesting approach. I’m looking for a great team for a long time. Maybe this is the way to go. I’ll definitely try it.

    ty!

  • http://fitnessone.de Oliver

    This is quite an interesting approach. I’m looking for a great team for a long time. Maybe this is the way to go. I’ll definitely try it.

    ty!

  • http://jes.uppercaseliving.net Jannifer

    I remember clearly when you said – “Do you realize there are thousands of great minds all plugged into the same conversation who could help each other with your goals? Activate” I responded – where can I find these people and you’d said right here. I really believed the people I was looking for could be found somewhere on social media, but I was starting to have serious doubts. Then you said – “The trick is this- don’t make me or anyone the hub. Lead. Find your groups. Reach out. Set group goals. Execute. Move to a new group. Fluid.” I realized that I needed to do something, just wasn’t sure how to go about it. So this post was right on target for me.

    I set out to take action and tweeted appeals for others to join me and started a FriendFeed Room (http://friendfeed.com/rooms/twitter-connect), and did have a few people join the room, but since have had no dialog or conversation and nobody responds to my appeals to activate the things on this Template. Maybe I need to regroup and try something else to get participation? Maybe starting up a Ning group would work. I also wonder – do people quickly move on to the next thing and forget about it? I feel like I’m floundering around aimlessly and don’t know how to make this work by myself.

  • http://jes.uppercaseliving.net Jannifer

    I remember clearly when you said – “Do you realize there are thousands of great minds all plugged into the same conversation who could help each other with your goals? Activate” I responded – where can I find these people and you’d said right here. I really believed the people I was looking for could be found somewhere on social media, but I was starting to have serious doubts. Then you said – “The trick is this- don’t make me or anyone the hub. Lead. Find your groups. Reach out. Set group goals. Execute. Move to a new group. Fluid.” I realized that I needed to do something, just wasn’t sure how to go about it. So this post was right on target for me.

    I set out to take action and tweeted appeals for others to join me and started a FriendFeed Room (http://friendfeed.com/rooms/twitter-connect), and did have a few people join the room, but since have had no dialog or conversation and nobody responds to my appeals to activate the things on this Template. Maybe I need to regroup and try something else to get participation? Maybe starting up a Ning group would work. I also wonder – do people quickly move on to the next thing and forget about it? I feel like I’m floundering around aimlessly and don’t know how to make this work by myself.

  • http://www.mymommymanual.com Ria Sharon

    Chris, thanks for taking this idea, transmuting it into concrete steps, and then articulating it so well. Wow! In yet another example of synchronicity, I was working through a lesson from Michelle Vandepas this morning on identifying a support structure for you divine purpose. And I had bookmarked your article to come back to later… that being today!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Ria

  • http://www.mymommymanual.com Ria Sharon

    Chris, thanks for taking this idea, transmuting it into concrete steps, and then articulating it so well. Wow! In yet another example of synchronicity, I was working through a lesson from Michelle Vandepas this morning on identifying a support structure for you divine purpose. And I had bookmarked your article to come back to later… that being today!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Ria

  • http://www.ridestory.com/ Andrew

    Like Jannifer, I’m unsure how to go about building a network that benefits both parties; i.e., those I connect with and myself. I have a blog, I tweet when I have time, and I have profiles on both Facebook and LinkedIn. I can’t devote all my time and energy to building my “profiles”. C’mon, I work full time! ;)

    Does your niche play a large role in how successful you are at building a network? I’ve often thought that my niche is not the best for creating relationships, let alone a business. Is there a point when you just sit down and say, “I’m wasting my time. Should I try something else?”

    I understand it takes time. I get that impression from everyone here as well as from Chris. I have taken it all to heart and have begun reviewing my goals for the new year. Google Doc has been created. Now I need to start making new connections.

  • http://www.ridestory.com/ Andrew

    Like Jannifer, I’m unsure how to go about building a network that benefits both parties; i.e., those I connect with and myself. I have a blog, I tweet when I have time, and I have profiles on both Facebook and LinkedIn. I can’t devote all my time and energy to building my “profiles”. C’mon, I work full time! ;)

    Does your niche play a large role in how successful you are at building a network? I’ve often thought that my niche is not the best for creating relationships, let alone a business. Is there a point when you just sit down and say, “I’m wasting my time. Should I try something else?”

    I understand it takes time. I get that impression from everyone here as well as from Chris. I have taken it all to heart and have begun reviewing my goals for the new year. Google Doc has been created. Now I need to start making new connections.

  • http://webstartupgroup.com Matt Smith

    @Jannifer and @Andrew,

    I suggest that you both post your goals in a comment here and then we (the community of readers on Chris Brogran’s blog) can see if we can help you! Perhaps, if we understand your needs better, then we can help you accomplish your goals and maybe you can help us accomplish ours.

    Matt
    http://webstartupgroup.com
    P.S. We are currently building a small powerful network at WebStartupGroup.com

  • http://webstartupgroup.com Matt Smith

    @Jannifer and @Andrew,

    I suggest that you both post your goals in a comment here and then we (the community of readers on Chris Brogran’s blog) can see if we can help you! Perhaps, if we understand your needs better, then we can help you accomplish your goals and maybe you can help us accomplish ours.

    Matt
    http://webstartupgroup.com
    P.S. We are currently building a small powerful network at WebStartupGroup.com

  • http://www.ridestory.com/ Andrew

    @Matt (and anyone else that would like to chime in)

    I’m interested in hearing your take on my question regarding niches and the role it plays in building a network. My niche is cars. There’s definitely a treasure chest of car sites out there, thus my difficulty at generating traffic. It’s difficult to compete. Since my niche is so overdone, is building a network based on it pointless? It goes to my earlier question as well, “Am I wasting my time?”

    Or is the size of the niche insignificant because you don’t need a network of thousands to help you accomplish your goals?

  • http://www.ridestory.com/ Andrew

    @Matt (and anyone else that would like to chime in)

    I’m interested in hearing your take on my question regarding niches and the role it plays in building a network. My niche is cars. There’s definitely a treasure chest of car sites out there, thus my difficulty at generating traffic. It’s difficult to compete. Since my niche is so overdone, is building a network based on it pointless? It goes to my earlier question as well, “Am I wasting my time?”

    Or is the size of the niche insignificant because you don’t need a network of thousands to help you accomplish your goals?

  • http://webstartupgroup.com Matt Smith

    @Andrew,

    Hopefully others will chime in, too… but, here are my thoughts…

    I think your niche is too broad (at least the way you described it is). As you yourself say “there are a treasure chest of car sites out there” — this is completely true. You want to separate yourself from the pack. What can you hone in on that perhaps isn’t receiving as much coverage? Somehow, it sounds like to me you need to narrow your scope.

    I just went to your site, and it appears you have some great content (e.g., nice pictures, clean layout, nice entries). After looking at your site, it appears you could definitely benefit by finding some fellow car-lovers to help build your community (and you theirs). You might ask them to guest post on your blog or offer to guest post on their blog.

    In summary, define more specifically what your focus is and then reach out to other people that share your passion about cars. Lastly, if cars is your passion, then you aren’t wasting your time and there is money to be made in that area.

    Lastly, if you (or anyone else) would like to post a short blog entry sharing your successes and failures of building community around your blog, we would love to hear it at on our blog WebStartupGroup.com where we discuss these issues.

  • http://webstartupgroup.com Matt Smith

    @Andrew,

    Hopefully others will chime in, too… but, here are my thoughts…

    I think your niche is too broad (at least the way you described it is). As you yourself say “there are a treasure chest of car sites out there” — this is completely true. You want to separate yourself from the pack. What can you hone in on that perhaps isn’t receiving as much coverage? Somehow, it sounds like to me you need to narrow your scope.

    I just went to your site, and it appears you have some great content (e.g., nice pictures, clean layout, nice entries). After looking at your site, it appears you could definitely benefit by finding some fellow car-lovers to help build your community (and you theirs). You might ask them to guest post on your blog or offer to guest post on their blog.

    In summary, define more specifically what your focus is and then reach out to other people that share your passion about cars. Lastly, if cars is your passion, then you aren’t wasting your time and there is money to be made in that area.

    Lastly, if you (or anyone else) would like to post a short blog entry sharing your successes and failures of building community around your blog, we would love to hear it at on our blog WebStartupGroup.com where we discuss these issues.

  • http://robgokee.com Rob Gokee

    Thanks for this informative post, Chris. You’ve given me lots of marketing fuel for 2009.

  • http://filmcomposeratlarge.com Rob Gokee

    Thanks for this informative post, Chris. You’ve given me lots of marketing fuel for 2009.

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  • http://recessionproofthinking.com susan kuhn frost

    Chris – you have taken Networking 101 and translated it for twitter/web 2.0. Which says to me: We’re at the end of Twitter-as-a-phenomenon and at the start of Twitter-as-a-tool to actually get things done. The torch is passed!

  • http://recessionproofthinking.com susan kuhn frost

    Chris – you have taken Networking 101 and translated it for twitter/web 2.0. Which says to me: We’re at the end of Twitter-as-a-phenomenon and at the start of Twitter-as-a-tool to actually get things done. The torch is passed!

  • http://www.memeshift.com/ Morgan Sully

    Thank you for writing this Chris!
    This post provides some nice actionable steps I’ve had around the idea of building your personal network. I’ve already shared this post with a few folks and am working on building up my network too!

    I’ve sometimes thought that one’s network is like a whole operating system for accomplishing the things you want to do in life – except it’s wonderfully powered by people, kind of like a hive mind, but without the creepy overtones.

    “Community As Your Operating System” is a post I wrote about it:
    http://www.memeshift.com/2008/11/17/community-as-your-operating-system/

  • http://www.memeshift.com/about Morgan Sully

    Thank you for writing this Chris!
    This post provides some nice actionable steps I’ve had around the idea of building your personal network. I’ve already shared this post with a few folks and am working on building up my network too!

    I’ve sometimes thought that one’s network is like a whole operating system for accomplishing the things you want to do in life – except it’s wonderfully powered by people, kind of like a hive mind, but without the creepy overtones.

    “Community As Your Operating System” is a post I wrote about it:
    http://www.memeshift.com/2008/11/17/community-as-your-operating-system/

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  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    I ALWAYS LOVE to see real examples or 'how-tos' like you listed here Chris. For me, it does exactly what I think you want it to do – make me think of how I can use it, what I can do, how I can adapt/modify it to work for me or my org.

    As i think about it i believe this sort of effort takes some lead time or time up front where you are active and involved … for me it's helped to shape my thinking on what i want to get out of using the tools, how i want to build my network, who the key folks are i need to link up with, etc …

    http://twitter.com/frasnswaa

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  • JasonWong

    I think it's too late I read your post, hopr you can also give some advices for 2010.

  • JasonWong

    I think it's too late I read your post, hopr you can also give some advices for 2010.

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  • http://www.yuregininsesi.com sesli chat

    Excellent post, Chris. I'm already following you and subscribe to your feed. I've been in the Web space since its commercial beginning in late '94, seen a lot of things, was on the edge for the dot-com explosion, survived it, etc. The energy around social networking, and in particular the recent Twitter surge, reminds me of the good old days, except the tools are so much more sophisticated. Your template will become a best practice and a case study for many.